Skiing in California: Guide for Best Mountains and 2022 Snow Forecast

Written by Lev Baker
Published: January 20, 2023
© Lance Huntress/
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Although California may remind you of sandy beaches, warm weather, and palm trees, the state is actually home to some of the best ski resorts in the country. In fact, some say that the ski resorts in California are on par with the ones in Colorado! Californian ski resorts are large, with many featuring over 80 runs! Everyone will enjoy these resorts, as they are family-friendly and include a variety of terrain for all skiing levels. If you want to have a skiing adventure that you will not forget, Californian ski resorts are just for you! The mountain scenery and powdery snow these ski resorts feature are majestic and cannot be missed.

Palisades Tahoe

Palisades Tahoe - Skiing in California
Palisades Tahoe has 6,000 acres of terrain.


Considered legendary and the most extensive skiing complex in the Lake Tahoe area, Palisades Tahoe exhibits 6,000 acres of skiable terrain to master. The Palisades sits upon Washeshu Peak, which has a top elevation of 9,050 feet and a vertical drop of 2,850 feet. Of course, a resort of this size should have a lot of runs, and it doesn’t disappoint, with more than 177 to choose from. Over half of these runs are rated expert level, 35% rated intermediate level, and the remainder rated beginner level. Among the many trails are 3 fully-built terrain parks with many rails, ramps, and jumps to master.

The Palisades offer what most other ski resorts cannot: terrain access via cable car. This offers stunning birds-eye views of the surrounding landscape. Also available is a kid’s ski area with 3 magic carpet lifts and beginner-friendly slopes. This ski area is perfect for the young ones to build their skill level before hitting the real trails.

The park operates a total of 43 ski lifts across the mountain. With the capacity to move over 75,000 passengers per hour, it is safe to say that there won’t be many lines to access the lifts. The real star of transportation is the 8-person gondola which connects the two bases that make up the resort. This will seamlessly get you from Olympic Valley to Alpine Meadows and back.

Palisades Tahoe is a massive resort, so you will absolutely want to make it more than a day trip. There are plenty of lodging options available to accommodate that. It doesn’t get any better than the slopeside rooms. These rooms are only steps away from the snow and mountains, meaning you’ll spend less time traveling and more time having fun! Each room has its own private balcony, full kitchen, and even a fireplace. There are also 8 outdoor hot tubs for you to enjoy after a full day skiing! The dining and retail options are close by as well, featuring beautiful views of the mountains, stone walkways, and easy access to all amenities.

Average Annual Snowfall

The Palisades Tahoe maintains an impressive 362 inches of snowfall per year. While February receives the most at 79 inches, the locals agree that March is the best time to visit. The maximum base depth was an astonishing 217 inches in February 2019! Because there is ample snowfall throughout most of the year, only the main trails of the resort have snowmaking machines on the off chance they are needed.

Heavenly Ski Resort

Heavenly Ski Resort - Skiing in California
At the California and Nevada border, in South Lake Tahoe, is Heavenly Ski Resort.

©Sundry Photography/

Heavenly Ski Resort is located in South Lake Tahoe at the California and Nevada border. This fantastic ski resort boasts 4,800 acres of skiable area. The 97 runs featured at the resort are sure to keep you entertained during your stay. On top of this, 28 lifts are available to get you to where you want to be at a fast pace and give you incredible views of Lake Tahoe while you ski will be a serene experience.

The top elevation at Heavenly Ski Resort is 10,067 feet, the highest in Lake Tahoe. The views you get from here are hard to compete with. The vertical drop is 3,500 feet, which is unmatched on the West Coast.

Heavenly Ski Resort is undoubtedly an impressive ski resort, but its other facilities ensure you have a fantastic time here. From exploring the craft beer to gambling at the casino, there is something for everyone. Even if you are not an avid skier, this place will leave an impression you will not likely forget.

Finding accommodation at Heavenly Ski Resort is easy. You can book lodging directly through the Heavenly Ski Resort website. Just enter your check-in and check-out dates with the number of people staying, and the website will list several available lodgings you can pick from. From resorts to inns, you are sure to find the accommodation that is perfect for you! As you will likely need more than one day at the resort to experience it fully, booking accommodation is highly recommended.

Average Annual Snowfall

The snowfall that Heavenly Ski Resort receives annually is an impressive 261 inches. The best months to visit the resort are between December and February, as the average monthly snowfall is at its highest. December may be the best month to visit as the snowfall peaks at 70 inches. Visit Heavenly Ski Resort during this time, as the resort has some of the best snow quality and groomers to keep the trails neat. The resort’s maximum base depth is 136 inches!

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area - Skiing in California
Some of the longest ski seasons in North America are at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in eastern California.


Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is located in eastern California. This resort is known for having one of the longest ski seasons in North America – generally from November to June. Not only is the resort open for an extended period, but it is also enormous, with over 3,500 acres of skiable area. Featuring over 150 runs, Mammoth Mountain is sure to keep you entertained for days. 25 lift systems are provided, getting you to the top of these runs, and fast. With the lift capacity of 50,000 passengers per hour, you will not need to wait long!

The top elevation at Mammoth Mountain is 11,053 feet, while the base elevation is 7,953 feet, giving you a vertical drop of 3,100 feet. Voted to have the best terrain parks in California, Mammoth Mountain offers 10 different terrain parks ranging from beginner to expert. These terrain parks are popular as each of them is different and allows for a whole lot of fun and discovery!

To explore all that Mammoth Mountain has to offer, you’ll need to stay for more than one day. So, lodging is a must. From hotel rooms to cabins, homes, and inns, you are sure to find accommodation that suits your needs. Get in early on their deals and packages so you can stay at a great, affordable place! Mammoth Mountain also has a price guarantee, ensuring that you get the best deal when you book directly through the website. Mammoth Mountain is located around 4.5 hours from Sacramento and 5.5 hours from San Francisco.

Average Annual Snowfall

The average annual snowfall at Mammoth Mountain is a whopping 298 inches. With consistent snowfall, Mammoth Mountain can stay open for much longer than other ski resorts. The average monthly snowfall is at its highest in December, peaking at 75 inches. However, even April gets a good deal of snow at 26 inches. Around June, the average snowfall is at 0.2 inches, which is generally around the time the resort closes. Mammoth Mountain offers the unique capability for late-season skiing, allowing you to escape the busy winter season! 

Kirkwood Ski Resort

Kirkwood Ski Resort - Skiing in California
About an hour south of Lake Tahoe is Kirkwood Ski Resort, in Kirkwood, California.

©Larry Zhou/

Kirkwood Ski Resort is located about an hour south of Lake Tahoe in Kirkwood, California. The resort features 2,300 skiable acres, scattered with 84 trails reaching 9,800 feet into the sky. The trails have a good mix of difficulties, from beginner to expert, for everyone to have a good time. The longest run is 2.5 miles long, and the vertical drop is exactly 2,000 feet. There are 15 lifts to help you reach whatever trail you want to tackle next. 

If a terrain park is what you’re after, Kirkwood Ski Resort has two to choose from. The Bandit Park is the typical snowy run featuring jumps, boxes, and rails to show off your skills. The freestyle terrain park offers a more challenging natural obstacle course.

Make sure you lock in your winter adventure with Kirkwood Ski Resort’s pass holder and multi-buy discounts. By combining lodging, lift tickets, lessons, and rentals, you can save big while you play big. There are dozens of lodging options to choose from, all within the vicinity of the resort, with plenty of budget-friendly accommodation to spare.

Kirkwood Ski Resort offers a “Green Run Guarantee”. This guarantee states that you will learn to ski one of the green runs in three lessons, or the fourth lesson is free. This is perfect for anyone new to skiing or snowboarding. Combining the lessons with their full range of gear rental and servicing, you can set yourself up to become a professional skier in no time.

Average Annual Snowfall

Kirkwood sees an average of 330 inches per year, most of which falls in February at 76 inches. The unique features and position of the resort make for perfect snow conditions. The storms come from the North and South, funnel through a tight canyon, and then dump the fresh snow right on top of the park. This creates excellent skiing conditions throughout the season with plenty of fresh powder snow!

Northstar California

Northstar Resort California - Skiing in California
Visitors can find Northstar Resort in Placer County.

©Lance Huntress/

Northstar California is located in Placer County, hidden between trees and valleys by Lake Tahoe. The large skiable area is 3,170 acres. There are 100 trails featured at Northstar California, ranging from beginner to advanced. This ski resort is catered toward more experienced skiers, as 87% of the trails are for intermediate and advanced skiers. The top elevation is 8,610 feet, with a vertical drop of 2,280 feet.

Northstar California’s winter season is generally from mid-November to mid-April. The resort receives lots of snow yearly, but the snowmaking coverage is at 50% if certain trails need maintenance. The trails are impeccably groomed and ready for you to take your skiing adventures to the next level. There are 8 terrain parks featured at Northstar California, all of which will allow freedom and challenges. With 20 lifts to get to your destination, you can travel with ease to the top of the mountain.

For all your accommodation needs, Northstar California’s website allows you to book a place to stay online. Lodging includes condos, private homes, and hotels – close to the resort for your convenience. To ensure you explore all that Northstar California has to offer, book lodging and enjoy your ski vacation at this fantastic ski resort.

Average Annual Snowfall

The average annual snowfall Northstar California receives is 313 inches. The month that receives the most snowfall is December at 83 inches. However, January and February also receive plentiful snowfall at 71 inches and 73 inches, respectively. In April, Northstar California still sees some snow at around 15 inches – but this is typically the month the resort closes. No matter what month you go during the season, there will be fresh snow for you to have an incredible skiing adventure.

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Northstar Resort California - Skiing in California
Northstar Resort in California.
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I have been a freelance writer for the past 2 years. I have a huge love of animals and I love building my knowledge of animals through research. I love sea creatures in particular, my favorite being the octopus because of their intelligence, and I mean, come on, what's not to love! I have a rescue boxer named Dante who is the friendliest pup a man could ask for.

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  1. Palisades Tahoe, Available here:
  2. Heavenly Ski Resort, Available here:
  3. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Available here:
  4. Kirkwood Ski Resort, Available here:
  5. Northstar California, Available here: